Paul Johnson has elected to step down after 11 seasons at Georgia Tech, ending a head coaching career that dates back to 1997 and has included success at both the FCS and FBS levels. In a statement released by the school, Johnson, 61, said that it was time to "take a break" from the demands of a college football coach to spend more time with his family.
"After 40 years of coaching, it's time to take a break," Johnson said. "My family has sacrificed a lot over the years. I want to watch my daughter [Kaitlyn, a professional opera singer] perform and do some things with my wife [Susan] that we've never had a chance to do. It's been a great run for the last 11 years here on The Flats. I'm proud of what we've accomplished and am looking forward to having the chance to coach this team one last time at our bowl game next month."
Johnson won 82 games as Georgia Tech's coach and has a 189-98 record overall across his stops at Georgia Southern, Navy and his time with the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech finished the regular season with a 7-5 record, second in the ACC Coastal, and will head to its third bowl game in the last five years. He finishes his tenure with the program as the fourth-winningest coach in school history, trailing a trio of College Football Hall of Famers in John Heisman, William Alexander and Bobby Dodd.
"I was saddened when Coach Johnson informed me that he was going to step down as our head coach," Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury said. "Not only is he Georgia Tech's winningest head coach in more than 50 years but he is also an incredible mentor for the young men in our football program and has helped develop countless student-athletes that have gone on to great success after graduation. I wish him and Susan nothing but the very best as he steps away from coaching football for the first time in 40 years and ask the entire Georgia Tech community to join me in thanking him for his hard work and contributions to the Institute over the past 11 years."
Georgia Tech won nine or more games four times under Johnson but has not done so since 2016. It has gone 12-11 over the last two seasons, including 9-7 in ACC play.
The best season of Johnson's career was 2014, when the team went 11-3 and finished the season with a win against Dak Prescott and Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl. That Georgia Tech team beat Clemson and Georgia to close the regular season and landed in the top 10 of the final polls after the bowl win. Johnson was named ACC Coach of the Year for the third time, and it appeared as though the Yellow Jackets had re-established their staying power as one of the league powers through yet another round of expansion. But instead of remaining one of the league's standard bearers, Georgia Tech has gone just 14-18 in ACC play since that 2014 season.
Johnson started his college coaching career in Western North Carolina in 1979 as an assistant at Avery County High School. He then worked as an offensive coordinator for Lees-McRae College before getting his first Division I job with then Division I-AA Georgia Southern in 1983. He was offensive coordinator at Hawaii (1987-94) and Navy (1995-96) before returning to Georgia Southern in 1997 as the team's head coach. There he won two Division I-AA national championships in 1999 and 2000 and finished as national runner-up in 1998. From there it was on to Navy where Johnson led the Midshipmen to bowl appearances in five of his six seasons as head coach between 2002-07.
Georgia Tech announced that Johnson will stay with the team through the postseason and coach the Yellow Jackets in their bowl game. There has not been a timetable set for the Yellow Jackets to make a new hire, but early reports have included Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott as possible replacements.